Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

TV on the Radio

I’ve always been a sucker for a band with great hair. The Make Up, 90 Day Men, At the Drive-In. Make of that what you will but bear in mnd that if I were shallow enough to judge a band purely on their hair then I’d be a life-long fan of Kid’n’Play.

And before you start with the style over content argument, I’m not saying that hair is the defining feature of a great band. I realise that other factors are important – you know, the boring stuff; talent, ability, stage presence, songs, that kind of thing. I’d also like to point out that, in theory at least, I’m not adverse to bands with no hair at all. But if you look back through the annals of rock’n’roll, you’ll see that image has it’s role to play in establishing a band as being more than just part of the pack. Image is what makes one really good band stand out from another.

What it all boils down to is that when a band is already musically strong, a good strong image is the finishing touch. And when you’re talking image, great hair is the icing on the sartorial cake.

Bearing this mind, you can understand why, having already read enough about TV on the Radio for them to pique my interest, the first time I saw a picture of guitarist Kyp Malone, I was sold. I had to hear this band.

On stage Kyp is the personification of the immovable object. He’s built like a bear, he’s enormous, the realisation of The Thing from the Fantastic Four. And on top of all that, he’s got the most amazing beard/afro combination going on that makes him look like this giant bipedal lion. The man is a fucking modern-day Sphinx come to life.

First time I saw them play, they were supporting Blonde Redhead. I say supporting, because officially, they were. But for whatever unannounced reason, TV on the Radio were on last, sometime after midnight. For some bands, this would be a problem. Blonde Redhead are a hard band to follow on an average night and this was anything but an average night. Their first London show in an age, moved from the Garage to the Scala, and with a new album to boot. But even after all this, TV on the Radio were magnificent.

Magnificent, but also very hard to pin down. OK, so the time of night and the earlier alcohol consumption may not have helped, but at first listen, TV on the Radio are an intriguing and beguiling mix of sounds. Basically, that night they were a tremendous, vibrant noise; a full-on wall of sound with falsetto vocals and lock-groove rhythms. I left the gig that night knowing that TV on the Radio were good, yet still not knowing quite what they were.

Their debut album, ‘Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes’, makes it clear. Well, as clear as it can given that the band not only somehow mix classic US alt.rock with dub, soul, deep rumbling electronics, lilting horns and military drum tattoos, but also invent the alt.rock barber shop quintet croon-fest. In lesser hands, there’s the risk that this would all come out sounding like an indie Sting pastiche but as TV on the Radio hands are as fine as their hair, they carry it off perfectly.

Video may well have killed the radio star, but it’s clear that the true stars of TV can be found on the radio, big hair and all. It’s time to turn on, tune in and rock out.